Clashes at Egypt judicial Protest, Beating One Senior judge And Detaining 15 Protesters.
|Tuesday, April 25,2006 00:00|
Egyptian police have broken up a pro-reform protest at the Judges’ Syndicate in Cairo, beating one senior judge and detaining 15 protesters.
Police moved against demonstrators overnight and struck a judge who came out to defend them, witnesses said.
Judge Mahmoud Hamza was taken to hospital but was not seriously hurt.
I told them I was a judge, a head of a court. They hit me... and took my trousers off
In an interview with the BBC, he said the government wanted to "terrorise" judges to back down from demanding their rights.
"In front of the gate, to my shock, someone snatched my phone out of my hand. Another came and held me from behind, and they dragged me across the road," Judge Hamza told the BBC Arabic service.
"I told them I was a judge, a head of a court, whack, they hit me," he said. "To my surprise they took my trousers off!"
President Hosni Mubarak has denied any attempt by his regime to interfere with Egypt’s judicial system.
"I will not intervene between judges out of respect for the judiciary’s independence and esteem for its judges," he said in an interview with al-Gomhuriya newspaper.
The judges’ protest is set to continue until 27 April, when judges Hesham Bastawisi and Mahmoud Mekki will appear before a disciplinary hearing.
The judges - both members of the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest appeals court - are being prosecuted after pressing for an inquiry into alleged electoral fraud in 2005.
Late last year, President Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party won more than 70% of seats in parliamentary elections in a vote marred by violence and accusations of fraud.
The judiciary in Egypt is required to supervise elections, but many judges have been angered by what they regard as attempts by the government to exploit them to legitimise fraud.
Through their professional association, judges have issued reports detailing violations in last year’s elections.
The association also continues to press loudly for a new law guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary.
The Egyptian Movement for Change, Kifaya, meaning "enough," said in a statement that police raided a judicial club gathering Monday and seized 12 activists, in addition to physically striking a number of government judges.
It also said police arrested a judge identified as Mahmoud Mohammed Abdel Latif Hamzah. The official was injured during the raid and taken away with his brother, a prosecutor, who tried to defend him.
The statement said "the activists sought refuge in the club after police broke their strike by force and followed them inside the club near the building of Cairo’s Greater Court."
Senior judges started a sit-in at the Judges’ Club last week to protest against the referral of two of their colleagues, Mahmoud Makki and Hisham Bastawi, to a disciplinary council to review their judicial credibility after they criticized the parliamentary elections last September, alleging vote rigging.
An attempt to solve the judges’ crisis failed after Minister of Justice Mahmoud Abul Layl insisted that the two apologize to him, to the Higher Council for Judges, and the president of the court of repeal for accusing them of vote rigging.
Kifaya was founded in 2004 by activists calling for long-time President Hosni Mubarak to step down.